Not many Tamil movies linger in your memory long after you have watched them. But Sollathen Ninaikiren ( I am trying to tell), the 1973 superhit movie directed by the redoubtable K Balachander leaves you with a strange feeling long after the movie has ended. Is it because the Chennai of 1973 looks so beautiful? Is it because one is able to vicariously experience the emotions of the lead actors? Sollathen Ninaikiren doesn’t feel like a movie at all. It is like a narration of events that happen in your neighbourhood. That is where its strength lies.
Produced by writer Manian [MGR’s associate for a long time] who wrote the serial story in Ananda Vikatan [Ilavu katha kili], Sollathen Ninaikiren is gripping in parts and has the trademark KB touch sprinkled all through the running of the film. A young bachelor [Sivakumar] joins an office as a manager and realizes that his predecessor [S V Subbaiah] was unfairly dismissed from service due to which he has suffered a mental imbalance. Subbaih’s daughters Subha, Srividya and Jayachitra bond well with each other and love their father. Each of them has a different personality.
While Subha is somewhat morose due to her stammering disability, Srividya rarely steps out of the kitchen. Jayachitra has a spit fire personality and her bluntness at times borders on rudeness. Sivakumar lets out a portion of his bungalow to this family and eventually falls in love with Jayachitra. However, the truth is that all the three sisters have fallen for his charms. As they realize the truth about his love interest, they start withdrawing from the scene.
There is also a sub-plot involving playboy Kamalhassan and Jayachitra’s classmate Jayasudha. Jayasudha gets married to Poornam Viswanathan who is much older to her and within no time, Jayasudha who is now a bored housewife, falls prey to Kamal’s lust. As they plan to elope, Poornam gets wind of it and elicits the help of Jayachitra in thwarting their plan. Jayachitra submits herself to Kamal’s lust and eventually reforms him. Sivakumar’s friend has already agreed to marry Srividya and when the former comes to know of Jayachitra’s predicament, he bows down and agrees to marry the eldest sister Subha but Subha has already chosen Sivakumar’s cook as her future husband. Thus, Sivakumar ends up a hero sans a heroine.
Music by M S Viswanathan is pleasing to the ear chords. The title song has been shot brilliantly. The dialogues are razor-sharp and as usual the direction by KB is avant garde. But what strikes you the most about Sollathen Ninaikiren are the spell binding performances.
Manian’s fictional characters are brought to life by the lead actors. Kamal is menacing as the lusty playboy. Subha is subdued as the eldest sister who is yet to find a match for herself. Jayachitra is boisterous, whacky and cherubic but surprisingly it is Srividya who steals the show. As the silent middle sister who doesn’t speak much and is unable to express her feelings, she manages to charm the audiences with her witty one-liners and her attempts to woo Sivakumar with her disarming demeanour. As usual Sivakumar is charming, debonair and portrays the perfect gentleman with elan. He doesn’t look like a 32-year old at all. It is hard to believe that Jayachitra was all of 16 when she acted in this movie. S V Subbaih moves you with his dialogue delivery and emotional punches. Jayasudha gets hitched to an elderly man on the lines of her earlier role in KB’s Apoorva Ragangal.
Some of the dialogues are worth noting – “ It is not just a widow who has to don a white saree; a woman who can’t find a husband has also no choice but to wear one”, “ It is better to express your feelings to your lover as otherwise there is a danger of your prize to your lover becoming a gift for her wedding”. [ a reference to Sridhar’s classic Kalyana Parisu that had Gemini Ganesan and B Saroja Devi immortalizing the roles of Bhaskar and Vasanthi respectively].
Who would be the best choice to play the main protagonist if the movie were to be remade today? It is without doubt, Surya, Sivakumar’s elder son who will fit the role like a T. But to be frank, it is virtually impossible to find actors today who can step in the shoes of S V Subbaih, Suba, Srividya and Jayachitra.